“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
— John 17:20-23
John 17 is known among Biblical scholars as “the high priestly prayer,” the moment when Jesus, as the high priest offers prayer for the sacrifice he is about to make, namely his own sacrifice. This is the moment when all comes into focus in the event of Jesus’ death, or so the image goes. This is the moment when what he about to do gains its meaning and definition. It is worth noting that the request Jesus makes is “that all may be one.”
It is hard for us to feel our unity with one another. Hard for us to see others as fundamentally connected to us. We may see our family, our friends, even our church family as connected, but, “those people”? That is harder for us. It is hard for us to see humanity as united; as all held in the person of God.
I am reminded of the famous words of John Donne:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Somehow that feels like the prayer of Jesus. Somehow that feels like the need of our moment. Somehow that feels like our greatest struggle.
We Are One in The Spirit v. 1
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
and we pray that all unity may one day be restored:
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Raise our vision above the barriers that separate us. Give us wisdom as we deal with one another. Help us to recognize and to respect different ways, rather than to judge. In the Spirit of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, we now must walk in the world. Amen.
(Adapted from Book of Worship prayer #423)
Pastor Tom Greener